What to expect from a farm dinner

Peaceful River Farm is in southern Orange County.  It is bordered to the west by the Haw River.  The ridges and valleys formed along the Haw millennia ago make a dramatic yet serene setting for a farm — and even more so when folks gather on a Sunday evening for a Peaceful River Farm dinner.

However, there is not much serene about the planning and preparation that goes into a farm dinner.  The market gardens were planted weeks before in soil that is healthy again from the incorporation of cover crops and compost producing delicious and nutritious vegetables, berries, and herbs.  The farm table has been set with flower arrangements from blooming shrubs and perennials from around the farm.  Planning with our guest chef began weeks before to incorporate as many of our just-picked produce in the recipes.   The recipe development is a collaboration between the guest chef and me (Lee), and we experiment and tweak together to make the meal memorable, delicious, and nutritious.

The Education Barn is ready for our guests to gather and mingle and soon after their arrival the room is abuzz with conversation and  delicious appetizers.  A farm tour follows led by Larry, highlighting the produce that will be served that evening and demonstrating a few methods for how we grow things at Peaceful River.  Tables are arranged along the deck end to end, overlooking the market gardens where there food had been harvested often hours before.  As the first course of a salad or soup is served, conversation flows freely.  The sense of community is further enhanced by the courses that follow which are served in a farm style pass-the-plate fashion.

About this time, the sun begins to set over the ridge that borders the Haw, and the western sky is ablaze in gold and red. Candles are lit before dessert and coffee are served, and during dessert our guest chef is introduced — often applauded before we can get out the introduction.  The chef discusses the menu, what ingredients were selected and how they interacted with other ingredients, their health benefits, and perhaps the inspiration for a particular recipe.  Guests ask questions and often linger after dinner to ask more questions or to get a photo with the chef.  Prior to thanking our guests and bidding them safe travel, we discuss what motivates us to promote healthy eating and primarily plant-based recipes, to grow superfoods loaded with nutrition, and to help build a new food system based on local, sustainably grown produce.

The godfather of sustainable farming, novelist, farmer, professor, Wendell Berry, has stated that “I stand for what I stand on”.

We stand on Peaceful River Farm, and farm dinners help us translate to our guests what we stand for.  Today, as we share some of our favorite farm recipes, imagine that you are joining us on the farm. Enjoy!                           – Larry & Lee Newlin

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